I normally have a great deal of respect for the police; those men and women who risk their lives each and every day to “protect and serve.” But I also know that, like in almost every area of society, there are the good cops and the bad cops. There are cops who are over-zealous; cops who profile; cops who target.
And I know that, in some cases, and probably far too many that I’d care to think about, the police act and react differently to a situation based on the area, the community, and the color of the skin involved.
I am quite certain that, were a police officer to point his gun at me and I were to raise my hands — in that universal symbol of surrender and proof that I do not have a weapon — I’d live another day.
Not so Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri.
Sure, a lot’s been said, and then unsaid, about this situation. There are stories, he said and she said and they said, and who said, from all sides, but the fact remains that another young Black men is dead in what seems almost like an epidemic in this country.
Are Black men not allowed to wear hoodies? Are they always suspect? And when they surrender are they always shot?
It appears so. Sadly, and that’s the real issue.
The police in Ferguson were out of control that night, that's clear, and they continued running unchecked for the first few nights that followed; they did things they would possibly never do to a white man in a white suburb; that’s clear. You may not believe it, but you’d be wrong, because, try as I might, I don’t recall a lot of stories where white kids are shot and killed for carrying Skittles and wearing hoodies, and I don’t see a lot of newspaper reports of young white men surrendering and being shot and killed.
I just don’t see it.
And while people can say the police in Ferguson were just doing their job — serving and protecting — it seems quite clear, by any number of witnesses, that Michael Brown, an eighteen-year-old Black man, was murdered on the street.
Sure, there was some kind of kerfuffle between Brown and Darren Wilson, the cop who shot him, but it appears the facts — given by any number of witnesses — state that, while Brown was running away from police they continued shooting at him, and when he turned around, raised his arms in surrender, and to prove he had no weapon, he was murdered in the street.
And then left there. No call to 911; no call to report the shooting. A young man dead in the street and nothing happens ... no calls ... no reports.
Afterwards, the Black community — which accounts for the majority of the citizens of Ferguson — began rioting, and, yes, maybe some were looting. I have never understood how breaking into a store and stealing a TV shows my anger at police, or anyone other than the store owner, but that’s just me. What happened next, however, was surreal...
The local police, of St. Louis, reacted as though this were some terrorist attack and began firing rubber bullets and tear gas even into crowds that had peacefully gathered together to protest Brown’s death. Again I can’t see this happened in a white community; I cannot see police, in riot gear, firing recklessly into a crowd of white citizens who are marching in protest; I cannot see police in riot gear, assault weapons, and assault vehicles, rolling through a white community to “keep the peace.”
Finally, after several days of unrest, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon stepped in and took the local police out of the equation — possibly thinking they were too close to the situation since it was one of their own that shot and killed Michael Brown — and placed the state highway patrol in charge of the situation.
The next night it was quiet in Ferguson.
But people are still thinking about why this happened, and how this happened, and why it happens again and again around this country. If Michael Brown was doing something stupid, even something illegal, even something to provoke a cop into shooting him, you cannot argue that what happened to Michael Brown had nothing to do with his skin color.
I know for a fact that had it been me, or any other white man on the street that night, in any town in America, and I had turned toward police officers, my hands in the air, I would still be alive today.
Not so for Michael Brown, and that’s the issue we need to discuss.